Madiba: FNB Stadium gates open

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Local and international media agencies prepare for the memorial service of former president Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium, outside Soweto, Johannesburg. Photo: Elmond Jiyane

Johannesburg - The gates to the FNB Stadium south of Johannesburg have been opened for the early crowd to enter.

They braved the rain to be early on Tuesday morning, and started gathering at the gates as early as 5am to attend the official memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela. He died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, on Thursday night at the age of 95.

Security guards opened the stadium gates at 6.30am.

“There is no better way to honour Tata... he was a great man,” said Emely Morake from Mamelodi, Pretoria, as she ran into the stadium.

The crowd cheered and waved at a military helicopter hovering above them.

They were standing in a queue to pass through the turnstiles.

Earlier the crowd counted down and shout “bula, bula, bula! (Open, open, open!) when gates were not opened at 6am as they had expected.

Members of the SA Police Service and the Johannesburg metro police were getting ready for the crowds expected at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

They held separate parades and head counts just before 6am.

People walked passed the entrance gates in the pouring rain.

There was no one inside the stadium yet. Traffic flowed freely in streets around the stadium. No roads had been cordoned off by 6am.

“The wet weather is playing a role here, but I think we can expect people to start arriving after 8am or whenever FNB Stadium is full,” said one metro police officer.

Orlando stadium is one of the feeder venues for members of the public to follow the official memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium, south of Johannesburg. The memorial is scheduled to start at 11am. - Sapa

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